Satan Testing Job

The Book of Job is mostly a historical poem, based on an event in the life of the greatest and most widely known man in his part of the world in his day. It has been eulogised as "perhaps the Greatest Masterpiece of the Human Mind" (Victor Hugo), as "one of the grandest things ever written" (Thomas Carlyle), and as rising "like a pyramid in the history of literature, without a predecessor and without rival" (Philip Schaff) – but surely is not solely the product of human mind.

The first two chapters and the greater part of the last chapter are written in prose. The intervening chapters, giving the content of the discourses recorded, are presented in poetical form. We are concerned in a general way with the book as a whole, but with the prose section in particular, and shall present a summary in an Excursus for some of the richly significant insights it affords in regard to both the malevolent agency of Satan and the problem of human suffering that has been with every generation of mankind.

SCENE I. On a day when "the sons of God [angels of God likely, as will be discussed later] came to present themselves before Jehovah [in the court of heaven, no doubt, for making reports and receiving assignments as well as for worship], that Satan came among them [apparently as an intruder]. And Jehovah said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? [evidently not for his own information regarding Satan and his doings, but to direct the attention of the angels present to such and put them on guard]. Then Satan answered Jehovah, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it [seeking whom he might devour?]. And Jehovah [especially proud of Job] said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job? For there is none like him in all the earth, a perfect [‘wholehearted,’ Jewish tradition to be sited again under SCENE VI, next page] and an upright man, one that feareth God, and turneth away from evil. Then Satan answered Jehovah, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast thou not made a hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath, on every side? Thou hast blessed the works of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thy hand now, and touch all that he hath [that is, to destroy it], and he will renounce thee to thy face. And Jehovah said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thy hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of Jehovah." (1:6-12.)

SCENE II. Then, on a day that Job’s seven sons and three daughters were having a celebration in their eldest brother’s house, all the following calamities, one right after the other, were reported: (1) While the oxen [he had 500 yoke of them] were plowing and the asses [he had 500 she-asses] were feeding beside them, the Sabeans fell upon them and took them away, and killed the servants attending them except the bearer of the report. (2) Fire of God fallen from heaven [lightening] burned up and consumed all the sheep [he had 7,000] and the servants attending them except the one making the report. (3) Three bands of Chaldeans fell upon the camels [he had 3,000], taking them away and slaying all servants with the exception of the reporter. And (4) a windstorm struck the house where his sons and daughters were entertaining themselves, killing everybody in it except the one fortunate enough to escape and make the report. (1:13-19.)

"Then Job arose, and rent his robe, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped: and he said, Naked came I out of my mothers womb, and naked shall I return thither: Jehovah gave, and Jehovah taketh away; blessed be the name of Jehovah. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly." (1:20-22.)

SCENE III. Again it came to pass on a subsequent day "when the sons of God came to present themselves before Jehovah, that Satan came also among them to present himself before Jehovah … and Jehovah said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job? For there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and upright man, one that feareth God, and turneth away from evil: and he still holdeth fast to his INTEGRITY, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause. And Satan answered Jehovah, and said, Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life. But put forth thy hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will renounce thee to thy face. And Jehovah said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thy hand; only spare his life." (2:1-6.)

SCENE IV. "So Satan went forth from the presence of Jehovah, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown. And he took him a potsherd {a pottery fragment} to scrape himself therewith; and sat among the ashes. Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still hold thine INTEGRITY? Renounce God, and die. But he said to her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips." (2:7-10.)

SCENE V. "Now when Job’s friends heard of all this evil that was come upon him, they came every one from his own place: Eliphaz the Temanite {close to Median where Moses father-in-law, Jethro, lived} and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite; and they made an appointment together to come to bemoan him and to comfort him. And when they lifted up their eyes afar off, and knew him not, they lifted up their voice, and wept; and they rent every one his robe, and sprinkled dust upon their heads toward heaven. So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none of them spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great." (2:11-13.)

SCENE VI. After this Job broke silence, and cursed his day. Then followed three rounds of speeches by his friends taking turns, with Job replying to each as soon as he had finished speaking. Each one was certain that Job must be guilty of some heinous sin or sins, however secret they may have been, else Jehovah would not be afflicting him as he was – even becoming more vehement against Job at times – with him just as vehemently protesting his innocence and charging them with false judgments and theology.

Job was full of complaints and of feeling that he was being unjustly punished – utterly unable to understand why, yet hopeful of somehow being ultimately vindicated – once exclaiming, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him; But I will argue my ways before him" (13:15, Translation of Jewish Publication society of America, 1955, fifth Printing, 1969, referred to above under SCENE I, preceding page) – and another time saying "But he knoweth the way that I take; when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold: (23:10).

Finally, his "comforters," almost his adversaries by now (with Eliphaz having gone so far as to accuse him of flagrant specific sins 22:1-11), had no more to say, and Job finished his "say" in three sections, Chapter 26, Chapters 27-18, and Chapters 29-31, as if giving opportunities for reply. The last sentence of Chapter 31 reads, "The words of Job are ended." (3:1 - 31:40.)

NOTE: In one of Job’s speeches (Chapter 19), in which he bared the great anguish and perplexity of soul, he included a description of how completely ostracized and alone and despised and ignored and forlorn he had become as follows: "He hath put my brethren far from me [thinking God had done it but not knowing why], And mine acquaintance are wholly estranged from me. My kinfolk have failed, And my familiar friends have forgotten me. They that dwell in my house [he had a ‘very great household,’ 1:3], and my maids, count me for a stranger: I am an alien in their sight. I call unto my servant, and he giveth me no answer, Though I entreat him with my mouth. My breath is strange to my wife, And my supplication to the children of my mother. Even young children despise me; If I arise they speak against me. And my familiar friends abhor me, and they whom I loved have turned against me." (Vs.13-19.)

SCENE VII. A young, arrogant, self-opinionated, highly articulate onlooker by the name of Elihu, who may have chanced to come that way and out of curiosity stopped when aware of what was taking place, was now so worked up and even angry at both Job and his three friends that he just had to speak. Six chapters record his harangue, which seems to have paused three times to allow for reply, with no one responding. Notwithstanding all its rhetoric and oratory, and indeed greater philosophical and theological content, with his implying divine inspiration (32:6-22), it was not essentially different in sentiment from speeches of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar.

Chapter 32:1-5 introduces Elihu’s speech as follows: "so these three ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. Then was kindled the wrath of Elihu, the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram" against Job was his wrath kindled, because he justified himself rather than God. also Against his three friends, because they had found no answer, and yet had condemned Job. Now Elihu had waited to speak unto Job, because they were elder than he. And when Elihu saw that there was no answer in the mouth of these men, his wrath was kindled."

  Elihu’s speech ends with Chapter 37. Whether that is because he had finished or because interrupted by God, is not stated, too. God, too, ignored Elihu except for an indirect reference to one of his accusations of Job.

SCENE VIII.   At any rate, Jehovah intervened (38:1), speaking to Job out of a whirlwind and asking, "who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?" – Elihu having accused him of "multiplying words without knowledge" (35:16). Then he challenged Job saying, "Gird up now your lions like a man; for I will demand of thee, and declare thee unto me." Continuing with a barrage of questions exposing the ignorance, impotence, helplessness, and infinitesimal smallness of man compared to God" (filling Chapters 38-41), he awed Job into the following reverential and penitential response: "I know that thou canst do all things, And that no purpose of thine can be restrained. Who is this that hideth counsel without knowledge? Therefore have I uttered that which I understood not. Things too wonderful for me, which I knew not … Wherefore I abhor myself, And repent in dust and ashes" (42:2-6).

 Whereupon, still ignoring Elihu, Jehovah said to Eliphaz the Temanite, My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends; for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath. Now therefore, take unto you seven bullocks and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you; for him I will accept, that I deal not with you after your folly; for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath." This they did, "and Jehovah accepted Job." (42:7-9.)

 "And Jehovah turned the captivity of Job, when he had prayed for his friends: and Jehovah gave him twice as he had before." All his brothers and sisters, and all his acquaintances that he had previously entertained in his home, came to see him, bemoaning him and comforting him "concerning all that Jehovah had brought upon him." Every man gave him a piece of money and a gold ring. …He had also seven sons and three daughters … And in all the land were no women found so fair as the daughters of Job: .. And after this Job lived a hundred and forty, years and saw his sons, and his sons’ sons even four generations. So Job died, being old and full of days." (42:10-17._

 With reference to this, we read in the New Testament: "Behold, we call them blessed that endured: ye have heard of the patience [endurance, or perseverance] of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord, how that the Lord is full of pity, and merciful" (James 5:11).

                        Observations on the Above

 1. The "sons of God" (1:6; 2:1) were likely the same as those of 38:4-7, in which Jehovah is represented as asking Job" "Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? … When the morning stars sang together, And all the sons of God shouted for joy?" These must have been the angelic creation, for that was before there were "sons of God" on the earth – before mankind had been created. And the presentation of the "sons of God" before Jehovah, as mentioned in the above passages, must have been in the court of heaven, with Satan entering as an intruder and accuser – being "the accuser of our brethren …, who accuseth them before God day and night" (Revelation 12:10).

 NOTE: The foregoing gives no credence to the popular notion, extant as early as the period between the Old and New Testaments, that "sons of God" who married "daughters of men" and had children by them, as mentioned in Genesis 6:1-4, were fallen angels. It is much more likely that they were men who were worshippers of God and women who were not. For, according to Christ, heavenly angels neither marry nor are given in marriage (Matthew 22:30; Mark 12:25; Luke 20:34-36). And fallen angels are not likely to have acquired sex by sinning. But, if so, it is not likely that they could have had children by "daughters of men," for, according to Genesis every creature of God that reproduces itself does so after its kind." And "angelkind" and "womankind" would not be the same kind – one "spirit" and the other "flesh" in addition to being spirit. And even two kinds of flesh have to be essentially alike in order to reproduce my mating. If simply of the border line and perchance able to produce offspring, it is infertile. Witness the Mule.

 2. Satan, "without cause," moved Jehovah against Job, to "destroy" him (2:3). While God did not move against Job except indirectly by allowing Satan to do so, he also placed limits beyond which Satan was not allowed to go. And he has promised to do so in regard to ourselves. "God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation provide a way of escape, that ye may be able to endure it" (1 Corinthians 10:13).

 Christians have not been promised immunity from temptation, but only from such as would be beyond our ability to resist. God allows us to be tempted by Satan within limits, to test us – limits are not necessarily the same for everyone. In the case of Job, he did not allow his life to be taken. But he has not promised Christians even that limitation (for there are experiences worse than death itself, and from which death can be a relief, particularly for the Christian); he has promised only to reward them more than commensurately, as he did Job in the end. "If any man would come after me." Said Jesus, "let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever would save his life [in this world] shall lose it [in the world to come]: and whosoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it" (Matthew 16:24-25). In other words, death is not defeat in any final sense, but compromise of discipleship to avoid death is defeat in the long run.

 Accordingly, we read "… the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed to usward’ (Romans8:18). "For our light affliction, which is for the moment, worketh for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory while we look not at the things that are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things that are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:17-18). Christians at Smyrna were told by Christ: "Fear not the thing you are about to suffer: behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days. But be thou faithful unto death [that is, unto the point of dying, if necessary, to keep from compromising their faithfulness to him], and I will give thee the crown of life [that is , eternal life]" (Revelation 2:10) – "not be{ing} hurt of the second death" (v.10) – "the lake of fire" (20:14; 21:8). And the inspired apostle Paul wrote that, if "for thy sake [Christ sake] we are killed all day long; [and] accounted as sheep for the slaughter, … we are more than conquerers through him that loved us" (Romans 8:36-37), for nothing, including "death .. shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (v.39).

3. Satan had at first said that if his substance were all destroyed he would renounce God to his face (1:11). That was saying Job was not outwardly righteous because of personal integrity (genuine goodness and piety), but because of earthly prosperity. And when God had still greater reason to be proud of him, now that he had proved Satan’s acquisition to be false, Satan retorted, "Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath he will give for his life." And insisted that if only his bone and flesh were "touched" he would renounce God to his face (2:4-5). By the no doubt proverbial saying, "Skin for Skin," he likely meant to say (a) that, to keep his own "skin" intact, a man will sacrifice another’s "skin," even that of his nearest and dearest, and (b) to insinuate that Job had submitted to the loss of his children with murmuring because he feared that otherwise God would stretch forth his hand against his own person, and smite or destroy it (Pulpit Commentary).

 Yet Job unknowingly proved Satan wrong again by maintaining his integrity notwithstanding Satan’s onslaught against his person. And, what may have been even harder to endure, and to hold out against, were the social and domestic conflicts and burdens that resulted – (a) his wife’s insistence that he sacrifice his integrity and die, (b) the inattention and desertion of servants and relatives and friends and neighbors, and (c) the adverse moral judgments and arguments of no doubt his most highly respected friends who had come with the idea of "comforting" him – likely reflecting the attitude of society at large.

 4. Like Job, we may not always know why we or others suffer as we or they do. Suffering may be (a) punitive (as for the incorrigibly wicked, Matthew 25:46); or (b) disciplinary (for correction and/or molding character, as per Hebrews 12:4-11; James 1:2; Romans 5:3-5; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10); or © for trials or testing (1 Thessalonians 5:3-5; James 1:12; 1 Peter 1:6-9) – and/or maybe for other reasons, as when the innocent suffer from the sins of others. As for Job, he seems to have had at least a vague notion of the possibility of being "tried," and of favorable outcome (Job 23:10), which actually eventuated.

 And an overall purpose of God seems to be to provide us with a knowledge of good and evil, so that we shall seek an eternity of good rather than evil. That no doubt was why the tree forbidden to Adam and Eve was called "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil" (Genesis 2:0). Before eating of it. they knew only good. But if they did eat of it, they would know both good and evil – a mixture of both. And their posterity has had and will continue to have such upon earth, in a period of probation, before an eternity to come in which destiny will be all good (eternal life) or all bad (eternal punishment). Not having experienced evil before eating the tree of life, they did not know how to appreciate how good they were having it or what they would lose by disobedience to God.

 Were it not for the benevolent purpose of God and his recompense in eternity for faithfulness under trial, this life would be grossly unfair for many and no doubt most. For the innocent as well as the guilty suffer, and in many instances much more so – the wicked often even prospering and the righteous not (see Psalm 73). The Book of Job appears to be designed to assure us that, regardless of life’s vicissitudes and no matter how much they may seem against us, God is in control and, if we retain our INTEGRITY toward him, "all things [will] work together for good" (Romans 8:28).

 Satan would have us disbelieve that, and disregard God. Both of them try us – God to test our loyalty and obedience to him, while soliciting it; but Satan in order to prevent our favorable responding to God, and doing so by all kinds of tactics. God allows him thus to operate within certain limitations but not to go beyond what we can resist if we will (see 1 Corinthians 10:13).

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